Thursday, February 7, 2008

Keep the Fire Burning

I can't say that I have ever been moved by something from the book of Leviticus (it is not my usual reading and the rules and regulations generally don't move me very much). But here is a passage from Leviticus 6:12-13 that touched me in today's Life Journal reading,"The fire on the altar shall be kept burning; it shall not go out. Every morning the priest shall add wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat pieces of the offerings of well-beings. A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not go out."

A perpetual fire shall be kept burning. I went to a small Christian college in the midwest. In the middle of the campus we had an area called "the prayer gardens" and in the midst of these gardens was a "prayer tower". On top of the prayer tower was a flame -- generally referred to as the "eternal flame" -- a perpetual symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Unfortunately, in the windy state we were located in this eternal flame would sometimes go out. Friends and I would declare the campus "ichobod (the spirit has departed)" and would do some goofy mourning thing to lament its passing.

We were playing but God's command in Leviticus that "a perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar" is some serious business. I have walked with Jesus Christ for 35 years this March 8. I have served the Lord full time since 1982 (and if you count the college and seminary required before that this time extends back to 1974). Keeping the perpetual fire burning on the altar of my life has been, at times, very difficult.

Here are some of the things I do to keep wood on the fire of the altar of God in my life. I make space, daily for prayer. I read through the Bible every year (hence the reason for reading Leviticus). I covenant with others for prayer (my clergy covenant group; my prayer partners, the staff team I work with at our church). I make sure that my hands get dirty in serving the Lord and I try to set a good example for others through the use of my time, my talent and the treasures of my life.

Keeping the perpetual fire burning on the altar of God in our lives is what it is all about. For Christian leaders this is the biggest imperative of our lives. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, told his young traveling preachers "set yourself on fire and the world will come watch you burn." May it be so as the perpetual fire keeps burning on the altar of God in my life.


1 comment:

Tim said...

Powerful sermon yesterday on this passage from Leviticus. A very important & essential message to remember. Thank you for sharing your "human jouney" with us. You give me strength.
You are in my prayers as you recouperate & travel.
God Speed.